If your holiday dinner table sees some heated arguments this year, just be glad if it doesn’t result in an actual melee, with armed standoffs in front of a blow-up Santa Claus.
That’s how bad things get in “’Twas the Fight Before Christmas,” an Apple Original documentary that recounts how Jeremy Morris, an attorney from Idaho, sued his neighborhood homeowners association, claiming religious discrimination after it refused to let him host his annual Christmas light extravaganza.
Directed by Becky Read, the film feels at first like a mundane depiction of a neighborhood squabble, giving play-by-play accounts of the stern letters sent back and forth between Morris and the West Hayden Estates Homeowners’ Association. But once Morris decks his house with over 200,000 Christmas lights and orders a camel — yes, a live camel — to his front yard despite warnings not to do so, the stakes quickly escalate.
Morris, who eats up the screen in his on-camera interviews, has the tenacity of both a well-trained lawyer and a zealot, positioning himself as a “miracle worker” unable to fully practice his Christian faith even as he makes life difficult for those around him. Read also interviews many of the West Hayden Estates residents, who participate in soft re-enactments of the events that help bring the absurdity of the conflict to light.
By the time the legal battle reaches its conclusion (for now), the film is more than ready to hint at the greater political implications of Morris’s actions, with the attorney voicing his desire to run for senator. One can’t help but wonder if Morris has already calculated the number of Christmas lights needed to cover the White House.
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